Frog of the Week

Black Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis moreletii)

photo by  Sean Michael Rovito

Common Name: Black Eyed Tree Frog, Morelet’s Treefrog, or Black Eyed Leaf Frog
Scientific Name: Agalychnis moreletii
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog Family
Locations: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico
Size: females around 2.5 inches (64.2 mm), males around 2.3 inches (58.6 mm)

The Blacked Eyed Tree Frog is the less popular cousin of the Red Eyed Tree Frog. Like the Red Eyed Tree Frog, they are nocturnal, spending the day hiding on leaves off trees. The frogs can be found in the pet trade but most of them are wild caught. Buying wild caught frogs is wrong in my opinion. The species epithet moreletii is in honor of french naturalist and illustrator Pierre Marie Arthur Morelet. Morelet didn’t study frogs, he was actually really interested in mollusks.

During the rainy season, the males of the species will start to call on elevated areas around pools, lakes, and streams. The female frog will select a mate and the two will embrace in amplexus. The female will lay her eggs on rocks and leaves over hanging water and the male will fertilize them. The female lays between 50 to 70 eggs. Once the tadpoles hatch in 5 to 10 days, they fall right into the water to finish their metamorphosis. This stage of the metamorphosis takes around 55 days.

While the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List only lists the Black Eyed Tree Frog as Least Conservation of becoming extinct, the species is in trouble. It was formerly listed as Critically Endangered in 2004 due to Chytrid Fungus wiping out populations in Mexico. It was predicted the fungus would eliminate populations in other countries. So far, the disease hasn’t done that. The habitat of the frogs are fragmented and are endangered due to habitat destruction for farms and cities.

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Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

photo by John Beniston

Common Name: Smooth Newt
Scientific Name: Lissotriton vulgaris
Family: Salamandridae
Locations: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and United Kingdom
Introduced Locations Australia
Size: 3.9 inches (10 cm)

The Smooth Newt is one of the most common amphibians found throughout temperate, forest areas in Europe. They are mostly terrestrial, only staying in water for extended periods of time during breeding season. They are also nocturnal, spending their days under logs and rocks. The newts do come out during rains during the day.

The Smooth Newt reproduces after the newt wake up from hibernation. The males and females move to ponds to breed. The males will grow out a wavy crest on their back to impress the females. The male will do a courtship dance to attract females. The males will deposit a sperm packet in the water and will lead a female over it during the courtship. The female will pick it up with her cloaca and bring it inside her to fertilize her eggs. A few days layer, the female will lay her eggs, as many as 300. Eggs hatch a few weeks later and larvae will appear. The larvae take a few months to complete their metamorphism, but some individuals may take over a year. These individuals will then have to survive in the water over winter.

In Australia, the Smooth Newt has established populations in the wild. It is believed the newts were released into the wild from a pet owner who didn’t want them anymore. Never do that please. Currently, it is not known if the newt is causing any serious environmental problems so the Australian Government isn’t actively trying to prevent their spread or eliminate them.

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Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi)

photo by Kris Urquhart/USFWS

Common Name: Dixie Valley Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus williamsi
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: United States – Nevada
Size: 2 inches (50.8 mm)

The Dixie Valley Toad is a relatively new species, only being described in 2017. Before, it was considered an isolated population of the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Physical and genetic tests revealed that it was in fact, its own species. Dixie Valley Toad is physically different than the Western Toad. They have gold specks on its body and is smaller than the Western Toad.

Most life history of the Dixie Valley Toad is presumed to be similar to the Western Toad. They are a nocturnal species, living under rocks or burrowed in the dirt during the day. Reproduction is external. The males will call to attract females. Once the female selects a male, the male will grasp the female from behind. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. No parental care has been shown.

While only just described, the toad is already a candidate for the Endangered Species List. The exact number of toads are unknown but their range is small. Their habitat is already threatened by a geothermal energy plant that has plans to go up right next to it.

Frog of the Week

Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)

photo by Charles J Sharp

Common Name: Marsh Frog
Scientific Name: Pelophylax ridibundus
Family: Ranidae – True Frog Family
Locations: Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Islamic Republic of, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.
Introduced Locations: Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom
Female Size: 6.7 inches (17 cm)
Male Size: 4.7 inches (12 cm)

The Marsh Frog is the largest frog native to Europe. Its found around the edges of rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams. They rarely ever move away from these shores. The frogs will start to breed at the beginning of spring. Like most frogs, the male Marsh Frogs will call to the female frogs from the shallows of the water. Once the female selects a mate, the male frog will grasp her from behind. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will then fertilize them. The female can lay between 670-13,000 eggs. Neither parent will provide any care for their offspring.

Marsh Frogs were introduced to Kent, England in the 1930s. Other populations of the frog have popped up in western London and the southwestern part of the country. Due to their size, they prey on native wildlife, potentially having problematic effects on the native populations. The frogs could also be spreading chytrid fungus, a deadly pathogen, around the country.

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Invasive Species Week

It is National Invasive Species Week! The week was created to raise awareness for the problems that invasive species create. What is an invasive species? It is a non-native living organism that has been introduced to a new environment by humans that is likely to cause economic harm, environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species can be fish, plants, insects, fungus, bacteria, and everything in between.

This week I will highlight invasive species that are causing problems, mostly for amphibians, here and on my social media accounts. Please stay tuned for more!

Toad Tuesday

Western European Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes)

Jean-Laurent Hentz

Common Name: Western European Spadefoot Toad, Iberian Spadefoot Toad, Spanish Spadefoot Toad, and Wagler’s Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Pelobates cultripes
Family: Pelobatidae – European Spadefoot Toad Family
Locations: France, Portugal, and Spain
Size: 4.9 inches (12.5 cm)

The Western European Spadefoot Toad gets its name due to the spades on its rear feet. The toad uses these spades to burrow down in the ground, over 7 inches deep. They prefer habitat with sandy soils or loosely compact soils since its easier to dig there. The toad is nocturnal so it is hard to find but they often come to the surface after rains.

The Western European Spadefoot Toad breeds from October to May. Males will call from temporary pools to attract females. Females will sometimes call too. Once the female selects a mate, the male will grasp the female frog behind in amplexus. The female will then lay her eggs and the males will fertilize them. Females will lay between 1000 – 4000 eggs. The tadpoles take 4 to 6 months to complete their metamorphism.

The Western Spadefoot Toad is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The habitat they call home is being destroyed for more urban development. Introduced species, such as the Louisiana Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), feed on the tadpoles and eggs, decreasing their population.

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Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)

photo by The High Fin Sperm Whale 

Common Name: Pacific Tree Frog, Pacific Chorus Frog
Scientific Name: Pseudacris regilla or Hyliola regilla
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog family
Locations: Canada, Mexico, and the United States
US Locations: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington
Size: .75 – 2 inches (19 – 50 mm)

Breeding for the frogs happen from November to July with frogs in higher elevations breeding later in the year. The male frogs will come to permanent or non-permanent waters bodies to start calling. The male frog’s breeding call is the typical ribbit that you hear on tv.

The males will highly territorial and will fight other males over breeding areas. Once the female comes and selects a mate, the male will grab her back in amplexus. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. The female will lay between 400 – 750 eggs at a time. Neither parent will provide any care for their offspring. The eggs hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. The tadpoles take 3 months to complete their transformation.

The Pacific Tree Frog was recently split into 3 different species based on DNA, but the analysis wasn’t great and it was merged back together.

The Pacific Tree Frog is the State Frog of Washington

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Black Legged Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates bicolor)

photo by Esteban Alzate
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Black Legged Poison Dart Frog or Bicolored Dart Frog
Scientific Name: Phyllobates bicolor
Family: Dendrobatidae – Poison Dart Frog family
Locations: Colombia
Size: 1.77 – 2.1 inches (45 – 55 mm)

The Black Legged Poison Dart Frogs is one of the most poisonous frogs on earth. They aren’t as poisonous as the Golden Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates terribilis), the world’s most poisonous frog, but still just 150 micrograms of poison is enough to kill a person. It is one of the three species of poison dart frogs that has been observed to be used to make poison darts by the locals. The natives call the frog, Neará.

They warn predators of their poison with their bright colors. Because they have no natural predators, the frogs are able to be diurnal and move around during the day. The two traits of being duirnal and brightly colored as let to them being introduced in the pet trade. Once the frogs were brought into captivity, they lost their toxicity due to it coming from the native ants they eat. Their large size, for a poison dart frog, also makes them a more ideal pet frog. They have been bred in captivity thus wild caught frogs are rarely seen in the trade in the US. The frogs are social and capable of being housed in groups. They can live up to 20 years under proper care.

Like many other species of Poison Dart Frogs, the Black Legged Poison Dart Frog is a great parent. The frogs will lay their eggs on a leaf or some surface. Once the eggs hatch into tadpoles, the males will carry the tadpoles on their back to a water source for them to grow up in.

The Black Legged Poison Dart Frog is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation (IUCN) Red List. The main threat to the frog is habitat loss due to cattle grazing, mining, and agriculture.

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California Tree Frog (Pseudacris cadaverina)

photo by Chris Brown / USGS

Common Name: California Tree Frog or California Chorus Frog
Scientific Name: Pseudacris cadaverina or Hyliola cadaverina
Family: Hylidae – Tree Frog family
Locations: Mexico and the United States (California)
Male Size: 1.4 inches (36 mm)
Female Size: 1.8 inches (45 mm)

The California Tree Frog can be called the California Chorus Frog due to them being placed in the Chorus Frog genus – Pseudacris. Researchers have proposed moving the frog into the genus Hyliola along with the Pacific Chorus Frog. They are more similar to other Chorus Frogs, in that they aren’t found high in the trees. These frogs like to live in crevices or cavities in boulders along streams. The frogs blend into these boulders with their rough skin and gray / brown color.

Breeding takes place in the streams from February to October. Reproduction for the California Tree Frog is pretty standard. Males will call from the streams to attract potential mates. Once the female selects the mate, the male will grasp her from behind in amplexus. The female then lay her eggs and the male then fertilizes them. Neither parent provide any care for their offspring. The larval period for the tadpoles ranges from 40 – 75 days.

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Sonoran Green Toad (Anaxyrus retiformis)

photo by William Flaxington

Common Name: Sonoran Green Toad, Pima Green Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus retiformis
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad Family
Locations: Mexico and the United States
US Locations: Arizona
Size: 1.5 – 2 inches (40 – 49 mm)

The Sonoran Green Toad is known for their yellow / green spots on the dark black background. The toad has lived over 15 years in captivity, which is relatively long for a toad. They are a highly fossorial frog, spending most of their days underground.

Once the summer rains come, the male Sonoran Green Toad comes to temporary filled pools to breed. The males will start to call from grass surrounding the pools to attract females. They are known as explosive breeders due to them only mating for a few days compared to weeks like other frogs. The females will carry the male from the grasses to the water where the females will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. The two toads will then part ways and provide no care for the offspring. Females will lay between 5 to 200 eggs. The eggs will hatch into tadpoles in 2 – 3 days. Then, the tadpoles take 2 to 3 weeks to complete their metamorphosis.